Have you ever found that there’s often a big difference between trip planning and tip execution? When you’re planning, everything seems important. OMG-this-is-serious-why-can’t-Google-find-the-answer?!?! serious. And then, you arrive and suddenly, you’re on vacation and nothing feels quite so important as it once seemed. Because, Costa Rica.
Getting around Tamarindo is one of those things: It feels really, really important – and, to some extent, it is important! – when you’re planning from back home, but then you arrive and you see our 1-mile long stretch of town for the first time, and all your transportation stress melts away. You could walk it, if you wanted to.
Key word: Wanted. Because, walking is a valid option. You’ll see that many tourists and residents do just that. But, if walking beneath a tropical sun isn’t quite your speed – and if you don’t want to rent a car (or, at least, not for the whole trip – then, you’ll be happy to know that we have a ton of other transportation options.
Starting with the most important and the one you should absolutely, positively plan in advance: how to get to Tamarindo. And then, beyond that, how are you going to get around town? Without a car. We have the answer. Six of them*, to be precise.
*All costs are sample prices and current as of mid-2019.
Best Arrival/Departure Transportation: Tamarindo Shuttle
Okay, so the Tamarindo shuttle isn’t so much a way to get around town, as it is a way to get to town. The best way, if you ask us.
For a super easy, stress-free way to get to (or from) town, we recommend booking a Tamarindo shuttle, aka private car service. It works just as the movies have made the world come to believe: Arrive at the airport – preferably, at our nearby Liberia International Airport, not SJO near San José – and your private driver will be waiting, a sign with your name(s) in hand.
S/he’ll pack your suitcases into a comfortable, air-conditioned car, SUV, or van (depending on the size of your group), and will drive you to the doorstep of your vacation home. Best of all, since you’ve booked a private driver for just your travel party, you can stop for incredible views, photo ops, snack breaks, and the restroom along the way. And, if you plan to rent a car while in Costa Rica, no problem! If you opt for the Tamarindo shuttle, we can schedule your car to be delivered to your rental home.
Average Tamarindo shuttle cost:
- $100+ from LIR to Tamarindo (4 people)
- $250-$350 from SJO (depending on the size of your party)
Beach Cruiser Bikes
If walking isn’t your thing – and, especially if you’re staying just a touch outside the downtown hustle and bustle – then a beach cruiser can fill that sweet spot. Several local surf shops and tour operators offer daily or weekly bike rentals and, while they’re not the fanciest bikes in the world, they’ll certainly get you around. For cheap.
Average bike rental cost:
- $10 /2 hours
- $15 /Day
- $20 /24 hours
- $60 /week
Getting Around: Golf Carts
This is where “beach life” really begins: Forget rental cars. Forget traffic jams. Forget everything but the laid-back pura vida, where golf carts are a perfectly acceptable (and enjoyable) means of daily transportation.
In our very tried-and-tested opinion, golf carts are one of the top methods of getting around town. They’re a little faster than bikes. They’re a little cheaper than heavy-duty car rentals. And, they’re comfortable: They can accommodate 4 to 6 riders – great for families! – and, since Costa Rica runs on almost 100% renewable energy sources, electric golf carts are green, too. Plus, you can drive ‘em on the street (you’ll just need a driver’s license), making them low-hassle transportation, to boot.
Average golf cart rental cost:
- 4 seater: $55/day
- 6 seater: $85/day
- Free delivery in Tamarindo / One-time $85 drop off fee for Hacienda Pinilla.
Getting Around: ATVs & Buggies
What’s faster than a golf cart, cooler than a rental car, and totally Tamarindo bad-ass? An ATV or buggy, that’s what!
You’re probably familiar with an ATV, aka an all-terrain vehicle – a 4-wheeler motorcycle, more or less. But, you may be a little less familiar with buggies, aka a UTV or side-by-side (SxS) off-road vehicle: a safer, beast-mode adrenaline addiction that’ll take you anywhere you want to go. ATV rentals are a great choice if you’re riding solo but, if you’re riding with passengers, we strongly recommend a 2- or 4-passenger side-by-side, which will not only get you there safely, but will also get you there in style and fun. It’s the ultimate adventure machine!
Average ATV rental cost:
Average UTV rental cost:
- 4-seater: $90/day
- 4-seater: $550/week
- 6-seater: $190/day
- 6-seater: $1,225/week
Getting Around: Uber
Didn’t expect to see this one on our list, did you? But, surprise! Uber has found its way to Tamarindo, and it’s just as affordable here as it is back home. (Probably cheaper per km, actually.)
The great news is that you don’t have to download anything special: the Uber app you use anywhere in the world, is the same app you can use in Costa Rica. What’s more, your app will even tell you if your driver speaks English! Do know, however, that Uber is not yet completely legalized in Costa Rica. The basic rule of thumb is to be cool, sit in the front seat, and don’t order an Uber around red (licensed) taxis.
Average Uber cost:
- Around $1.00 per kilometer, but check your app for a trip quote
Getting Around: Taxis
Costa Rica’s ample pedestrian population has created a robust network of official taxis, which are readily available throughout Costa Rica. And that definitely includes Tamarindo and our surrounds, thankfully!
Official (licensed) taxis are painted red, have a yellow taxi “hat” on top, and have a yellow triangle with their cab number on the door.
You’ll find a few official taxi stands around town – they’re usually signed but basically, just look for a line of red cabs awaiting fares – and you can also flag down a taxi in the normal way: stick out your arm and wave. If they’re available, they’ll stop. Alternately, you can call the “Central,” or the central taxi number (8707-2174) and request a taxi be sent your way; Spanish is recommended, if you go this route. You may also try with Easy Taxi, a smartphone app that delivers middling success (results may vary).
And, here’s a tip: Tourists can seem like easy targets to a few (certainly not all) unscrupulous drivers. Do yourself a favor and, every time you hop into a taxi, request that your driver start the meter: “Ponga la maría, por favor.” (Pone-gah la mah-ree-ah, poor fa-voor.) Wait to see that s/he starts the meter – if not, insist again – and enjoy your ride.
Taxi 911: If something’s amiss – if your driver refuses to turn on the meter, is slurring his/her words, is using his/her phone while driving, etc. – you may report the incident to ARESEP (regulatory authority) at 800-027-3737.
Average taxi cost:
- Under $1.50 per kilometer
And, there you have it: 6 of our favorite not-a-car transportation options. But, hey! Want a rental car for your time in Costa Rica? We can help. We’ll even deliver your rental car to your vacation home. You relax. Have fun. We got this.